I love my dogs. Most mornings we’re able to take leisurely strolls down our regular route that lets them get some fresh air and “do their thing.” On those mornings I come inside feeling somewhat refreshed myself, ready to start the day.
Then there are mornings like today.
Mia the Newf is always nice and quiet in the mornings until she sees me brush my teeth and start reaching for my walking clothes. At that point she starts whining and pouting, as though I’ve kept her locked inside a room for days, unable to see the light of day. That whining continues until we’re actually walking out the door of the apartment and heading toward the outdoors. Max the Lab generally just follows along quietly, like a toddler sibling who doesn’t need to talk because the others are talking for him.
This morning the whining started early, and both dogs crowded my shadow out of the way so they could get closer. I literally tripped over Max while trying to get my shoes, and Mia used her big head three times to try to hurry them as I tried to tie the shoestrings. The second – seriously, the second – I opened the door the dogs were down the stairs in a shot, dragging me, holding tightly onto their tandem leash, precariously behind.
Once we hit the pavement, however, the rush was off. Suddenly they were Pokey Little Puppies, stopping to sniff every footprint, every “dog spot” and most especially those strange blades of grass sticking out of the four-day-old snow — an act made even more frustrating by the fact that they weren’t sniffing the same footprint, dog spot or grass blade at the same time. Two dogs on a tandem can create havoc for their owner when one is moving five feet west while the other heads three feet east.
The process is a start-and-stop walk that, when I’m not paying close attention, means at some point I’m ramming my knee into poor Max’s butt, which elicits a look from the dog that says, “Really? You had to knee my butt?”
Every sound they hear is a new adventure, Mia lifts her head and assumes the proud Newf stance and Max, at 11 years old, offers the obligatory bark – just one – that reminds me that he truly is turning into a grumpy old man, reminiscent of Walter Matthau in the movie by the same name. When Max offers his bark I imagine he’s saying, in his best Walter Matthau voice, “Get off my Earth!” (Because, after all, Max and Mia – in their own minds – are the only two dogs, and we’re the only humans, that should be within sight.)
The stopping and sniffing and marking and walking continues until it’s time for one of the two to “go” – at which point the other then marks the “go” point – and, not to be outdone, the first dog re-marks the initial “go” point. The cycle would continue, I’m sure, if I didn’t offer a slight tug, followed by, “Walk.”
Of course, this pattern is repeated when the other must “go” because, I guess, “marking” isn’t the same as “going” so the second dog must take his or her own turn.
Eventually we make it back home. They eat their breakfast and sleep the morning away.
I’m ready for a drink.